Interview: Derek Hynd On Why We Should Lose The Legrope - Stab Mag

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"Surfing was developed 1000's of years ago as a test against the powers of Nature. The surfer for the last 50 years has stacked the odds". Photo by Deon Lategan

Interview: Derek Hynd On Why We Should Lose The Legrope

“Had the legrope remained the domain of only the kook, surfing would still be intensely tribal, wild, and without 90% of the surfing population seen today.”

features // Feb 23, 2022
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Derek Hynd lost his vision in one eye after the ‘spring back’ of his leash caused his board to skewer his right blinder. That was in 1980. Hynd surprised everyone by finishing the 1981 season ranked #7. The following season he dropped to #20, and at age 25 retired from competition. 

Derek Hynd’s eccentricities are legion. It’s practically been a second career for him, a lifelong performance art piece, the crafting of offbeat words and actions that, intentionally or not, have landed Derek his own little beachfront pied-à-terre in a neighborhood whose better-known residents include John Waters, Howard Hughes, and Bjork. Derek going to a costume party dressed in an oilskin jacket draped in sardines. Derek seeking a deeper connection with his latest girlfriend by fishing out of the toilet, for closer examination, barehanded, a small bark-shaped piece of her unflushed waste. I stayed with Derek on the North Shore a few times, and remember that while he didn’t often shower, he would, unfailingly, and with the greatest care and attention, wash his feet every night before going to bed. This way of being in the world was not something Hynd came into later in life. Nick Carroll, way back in 1981, called Derek “the most looney and colorful character in professional surfing; an enigma who can at one moment be shrouded and withdrawn, and involved the next moment in some startling display of all-out public lunacy,” writes Matt Warshaw in the EOS.

This is where you’ll find him.

Nowadays Hynd can be commonly spotted at The Pass riding his FFFF boards in a lineup clotted with every conceivable surf and surf-adjacent craft in existence, up to and including the goat-boat, surf-ski, eggs, logs, asyms, boogs… ad infinitum. For a purist, it is a picture of death, the cacophonic hoots of “fuckwits on softboards with goober clown grins” are the nail in the coffin. Still, putting aside his disdain for the widespread atrophy of surfing, Derek appears cheerful in the water, often positioning himself mid-pack, striking up conversation with novices oblivious to the Yoda status of the person before them.

An unseen tidbit from an interview I did with Derek previously, A Chance Encounter With One Of Surfing’s Greatest Minds: Derek Hynd, was the following argument bound to ruffle feathers in as much as it provokes thought. It regards the legrope, or as Derek calls it the ‘umbilical cord’. The part of placenta a developing fetus uses for oxygen and nutrient delivery. The double entendre is no mistake. 

*The following interview took place after an incredibly crowded session at The Pass*

“I guess madness and focus meld into one once committed to a section in front of rocks sans leash”. Photo by Alan Van Gysen

Stab: When was the last time you used a legrope?

Derek: I’ve only worn a cursed legrope one time in a year and a half. 

What’s the idea behind no legrope? This will ruffle some feathers. 

Maybe it will, but you see, I’m one of the few legitimate conscientious objectors to legropes there can be. Lost an eye from one in competition in 1980. I don’t particularly want to lose the other. When I commenced the whole FFFF project it was to decouple as much as possible from the ingrained surfing process. The legrope is the greatest symbol of mass market surfing penetration in history. With bearing on the day’s packed lineup, only a minor fraction of that number would’ve been anywhere near that outer section had legropes not been such an umbilical cord. I also field contact from people who’ve either lost eyes from legropes be it their own or someone else’s stupid bail out in front of them.                           

Surfing was developed 1000’s of years ago as a test against the powers of Nature. The surfer for the last 50 years has stacked the odds. 

I see your point. I’m slightly confused as to how they can cause damage though. I guess it does make people careless with bailing boards that whip around underwater. Just it would’ve been scary if all 2000 people out there were cordless. Particularly, the logs. 

Aha! that’s the paradox. Without legropes there would’ve been 40 people out, max, and most of them nursing their boards. The spring back of the legrope is the monster. Also, the killer from kook third parties is the surfer who jumps off his or her board whilst looking out to the horizon, oblivious of the surfer in front of them at the point of jumping off. For every lost log I’ve seen at The Pass, and I’ve seen a few aka about 20 in a year, I’ve seen 1000 instances of this more dangerous move of jumping out the back of a wave without thought for the third party.

Derek will probably never ride a board in a wave pool, he will however drop a bomb in one. Photo by Alan Van Gysen

True, I’ve had a black eye from the spring back. Didn’t think about that.

I’m glad you got away from that situation.

That legrope point is actually making me think. I’m wondering how significant its impact is. I doubt we would see the aerial progression of today if groms had to swim in every time they fell trying air reverses. Or to your point, if people would be surfing as bigger waves. Safety. Practicality etc. On some level you just don’t want to smash your board on the rocks every time you fall off.

Well, its’ the “rub” of just how and why surfing lost the left wing. To go for it without a legrope requires a ton more focus and sometimes madness in the slot. Bottom line is this, had the legrope remained the domain of only the kook, which is where it sat for the first two years, surfing would still be intensely tribal, intensely wild, and without 90% of the surfing population seen today. I guess madness and focus meld into one once committed to a section in front of rocks sans leash.

Out of curiosity, will you ever be spotted in a wave pool?

I doubt it. Has the Guinness book of Records included an entry of the first surfer to lay a brown bomb in one?

Not sure but look forward to seeing it. Thanks Derek.


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